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customer experience
Tim Wade
  • By Tim Wade
  • Apr 07 2014

The problem with omni-channel…

Over the last few years the business world has gone mad for omni-channel, with its interconnected customers and the 'shop anywhere' mentality. All is well and good, and as much as I agree with many aspects, there are some fundamental challenges.

....Customers don’t think in channels

This may just be an issue of semantics, but customers don’t think in channels - they are just shopping by whatever means come natural and easy at that moment in time. So why do we call it omni-channel? The business and marketing worlds are great at making things sound complicated – I think it keeps consultants and analysts in very well paid jobs (talking of which, if anybody needs such a consultant then please get in touch). But seriously why do we try to make it sound so difficult when in fact the concept is a very simple one? This leads to the next challenge.

....The focus on technology rather than experience

The omni-channel world is dominated by talk of technology and less talk about experience. I am all for embracing technology and developing the capability to track customer interactions across multiple touchpoints and respond in real time to their changing needs; in fact, this is what I was leading at Best Western in the UK. But this is just a means to an end and not an end in itself. The aim isn’t to tie the data together, but to deliver great customer experiences. So let’s change the conversation from a focus on technology to a focus on experience, which is eminently more human.

.... Measuring the number of multi-touchpoints as a determinant of success

One of the positive areas in which omni-channel has moved us towards is the need to look at the whole customer journey and not just focus on the silos of individual channels. The challenge, however, is that much of the discussion still seems to focus on analysing and scoring the collection of touchpoints that the customer interacts with in order to determine how well a business is doing at omni-channel. This is fundamentally the wrong way to look at it. One great WOW moment can make for a memorable experience that creates advocacy, whereas lots of so-called best-practice touchpoints across the channels will only make for an average and unmemorable experience. If you think about this using Daniel Kahneman’s ‘remembering self’ versus the ‘experience self’ it is the difference between the OK and the WOW moment that creates the memory – and it is the memory that creates advocacy and spreads the message in this socially connected world.

The key is not to focus on every channel but instead focus on creating the truly WOW moments.

A great example of this is Metro Bank. I was listening to Chris Bindley (MD of Metro Bank) present at a conference recently and as well as a truly inspiring presentation he showed that the WOW moments they focus on is the amazing branch experience where children and pets are welcome, opening hours are more convenient and attitudes are about delighting the customer – yet they don’t yet have mobile banking! So in the omni-world are they good or bad? Compare this to someone like Barclays who invest heavily in innovative product solutions such as Pingit, yet seemingly struggle to create memorable customer experiences. So who is more Omni?

The question is - should we have a different approach?

There are definitely benefits to omni vs multi-channel but we need to take a more customer-centric view and we need to simplify the language. The digital world is seamlessly integrating with the physical world and this is just the natural state for customers. It doesn’t need a name. The focus, no matter what channel, is on creating memorable brand-led experiences for the customers.

© Smith+Co 2014

Tim Wade is the Smith+Co expert on differentiating brands across multiple channels. Prior to joining Smith+co, he was Director of Marketing & Ecommerce for Best Western, the largest group of independent hotels in the world.

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Tim is also a frequent speaker on customer experience, the multi-channel customer journey, and creating emotion through storytelling. See more